Monday, May 10, 2010
As a leftist myself (and by that I mean, I am a registered member of the Leftist-Green Party), it pains me to say this, but I've noticed that the right wing seems to have an easier time sticking together and being in general agreement than the left wing does. Leftists argue and splinter off; righties grumble in mild disagreement, but stick together. Why this is would be a subject for a whole other article - what makes me think of this today is the outcome of yesterday's cabinet meeting.
In a nutshell, the government needs to make more cuts. Now, being leftist, this government doesn't possess the sort of merciless bloodlust for slashing social programs that comes so easily to the right. And so in order to avoid that as much as possible, the Social Democrats have proposed combining a few existing ministries: the ministries of social affairs and health would become one, and the ministries of fishing, agriculture and industry would become the tentatively-titled-but-catchy-sounding Ministry of Employment. This would take the number of ministries down from 12 to 9, which would mean it's reducing the size of the government, and thus, reducing spending. 9 is less than 12, after all, right?
Well, not everyone's on board with this idea, even within the ruling coalition itself. Eyjan.is is reporting that the Leftist-Greens are against the idea. The reasoning appears to be due to primarily to ego. Leftist-Green MP Ögmundur Jónasson used to be Minister of Health, but resigned from that position due to disagreements over Icesave. He's got a lot of supporters who'd like to see him back as some sort of minister. At the same time, current Minister of Fishing and Agriculture Jón Bjarnason has his share of fans who want to see him stay on in his capacity. Among them is Leftist-Green MP Ásmundur Einar Daðason, who has been dead set against the Ministry of Employment idea. Rather than combine ministries together, they would rather do away with the only two non-party-affilliated ministers - Minister of Business Gylfi Magnússon and Minister of Justice Ragna Árnadóttir - and replace them with politicians.
Now, as you can imagine, this caused a firestorm in the Icelandic blog world, the general sentiment being that the Leftist-Greens are willing to stand in the way of reducing the budget in order to get their own people into positions of power, they are all self-serving communists, they probably hate rainbows and puppies, and so on.*
The whole argument between the two parties is pretty much part and parcel of their relationship with each other. The Social Dems and the Leftist-Greens sprang forth around the same time, and are derived from similar ideologies. They're pretty much like siblings. They get along, sure, but occassionally they have little dramatic hissy-fits - such as the one sparked when Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir likened getting the Leftist-Greens to agree with each other to herding cats - going back and forth with snippy, passive-aggressive verbal barbs until they get bored with it and make up.
Every time they fight, conservatives chortle and chin-stroke, speculating that this time for sure the government is really on shakey ground. Inevitably, someone will pose the question to the parties, "Oh wow guys I can't believe you're fighting - are you breaking up???", and the response is always the same: "It's perfectly natural for two separate political parties to disagree from time to time. This government is sticking together." It'll stick together this time, too. If for no other reason than to keep conservatives out of power.
It's not like they argue all the time or anything. Just on minor, trifling issues such as Icesave, allowing a private military contractor to set up shop here, and how to organize the government. Other than that they're like BFFs.
*On the other hand, would combining ministries really reduce the budget? Assuming a best case scenario, where the upper-management of the combined ministries take a big ol' cut, and then have to oversee double the staff, what sort of workload would the new management be looking at? Delays in ministerial procedures themselves cost money. So does hiring assistants to take care of the backlog. Nine is less than twelve, sure. But is the answer to budget problems within the government really to give the already-overburdened management even more stuff to manage? I don't get invited to cabinet meetings, so I really have no idea just how concrete or well-thought-out these proposals are.